Updated: Jul 25
July 26, 2023
"We're taking this thing till we're all in the box... till the wheels come off."
(still-image from the film Bruce Springsteen's Letter To You, © 2020 Letter To You LLC, available for viewing at Apple TV+)
Dear Readers and Fellow Springsteen Fans,
Welcome! It feels very good indeed to be writing this initial message to fans of the music and artistry of Bruce Springsteen, with or without the mighty E Street Band. And just in case anyone may need or want it, here's some of the history behind this new website having come to exist. As its editor/publisher, I guess I should begin with some of my own personal, historical connections to Bruce’s music, so here goes...
My Springsteen fandom began in the early 1980s, just as I was entering my early teen years, and it quickly went "hardcore." Part of what made this development inevitable probably had something to do with growing up in Philadelphia, PA, an area of the U.S. that served as one of Bruce's earliest and most passionate fanbases. His music continually got a lot of airplay on our local rock radio stations, thanks to the groundbreaking and passionate support of folks like David Dye and Ed Sciaky. Almost a decade before I became a fan, they were among the first in the nation to understand how great the best of Springsteen's music could be. They already were sharing the music and their enthusiasm for it with their listeners, many of whom obviously agreed, well before relatively newer listeners like me began coming into their fold.
But there was much, much more to the roots of my fandom than mere geography and timing. It also had a lot to do with growing up as the oldest son in a working-class, single-parent family headed by my late mother. She did the very best she could raising three boys through some extremely tough times after my alcoholic, abusive father "went out for a ride and... never went back," to quote Springsteen's first Top-Ten hit-single "Hungry Heart." A lot of what Bruce was writing, singing, and speaking about (onstage and in interviews, especially once I got to read it all so well synthesized into Dave Marsh's still-essential-and-excellent Springsteen biographies Born to Run: The Bruce Springsteen Story and Glory Days: Bruce Springsteen in the 1980s) connected strongly with me as I trudged through my own struggles to find some hope, meaning, and purpose during the difficult double-shots of my adolescence and young adulthood.
In addition, Bruce's music served as a very important conduit for a younger listener like myself. I listened closely enough to his music - and heard/read enough of what he had to say about it - that I learned not just about the music of Bruce Springsteen, but also about the work of so many other great artists in rock-n-roll, soul, blues, country, punk, folk, etc. Springsteen frequently and consistently talked about his musical influences, in addition to incorporating some downright awesome interpretations of others' songs into his live shows (many of which I first got to hear via "fan-based recordings," of course, several years before I began attending Springsteen concerts in person and several decades before the blessed arrival of live.brucespringsteen.net.) One of the greatest gifts I got from Bruce's music was all of that other music.
Springsteen's music also helped to introduce some crucial ideas and ways of thinking about politics, socio-economic issues, etc. Whenever I especially recall the arc of his albums from Darkness on the Edge of Town through Born in the U.S.A., I can't help thinking about not only all of that great music and the now-legendary live performances of it, but also how formative and inspirational they were for me as I began to explore more deeply what it means to take on the adult responsibilities of citizenship, to stand up and join with others in advocating for what you believe deeply in your heart to be correct, fair, and just. All of that was yet another gift given to me by the music. And one of the best parts of that gift has been that as I've continued to age, grow, and face new adult challenges and possibilities, Springsteen has continued to be there as an artist, still producing work that continues to connect deeply with "...life right now!"
Shortly after my fandom began, I became a loyal subscriber to Backstreets Magazine, the long-reigning premier magazine (and website) for Springsteen fans. It was a status I maintained as a Springsteen fan until the magazine and its website shut down operations this past February. By that point, when editor/publisher Chris Phillips announced the sad news, I also had logged more than two decades of writing and reporting for Backstreets and its website. Becoming a regular Backstreets contributor, as well as remaining a regular reader, gave me some of the best experiences of my life. I got to become part of a community of fellow fans, meet and interview some famous and fascinating folks, gain many deeper insights into the art that I love, and support some efforts and causes that are very close to my heart. I learned a lot, and had a helluva lot of fun doing it all, too. I remain deeply grateful to Chris Phillips for providing the gateway to all of those opportunities. In my life Chris became not just an editor who played an invaluable role in helping me to improve and expand my own writing and editing skills, but also someone whom I was, and of course still am, very glad to call a friend. Chris, I may not fully understand or agree with all of your reasons for closing up shop, but I still wish you nothing but the best in this post-Backstreets phase of your life and career, brother. Thanks again for everything.
All of the above notwithstanding, there's one thing that’s still very important to me... and not just to me, I think (and hope.) As a Springsteen fan who believes that there remains a lot of interesting and inspiring stuff to read and write about this major artist's ongoing career, I feel that the end of Backstreets as we’ve known it has left myself and many other fans "stranded in the park," at least momentarily. We've been left in want of a new online home for not only our regular Springsteen-related news updates and analyses, but also for deeper, more thoughtful dives into the music's past, present, and future, as Bruce continues to build and sustain his multi-generational, international audience. A home for fan-driven writing that informs, challenges, and inspires, for sure, but is also - like the best of what Backstreets offered - non-academic and non-preachy, focusing instead on the passion, the accessibility, and even the appropriate doses of humor and self-deprecation that mark fandom at its best.
So the Letters To You website is an attempt to help fill a very tall order indeed. To do it right will require operating in ways similar to what Bruce Springsteen has done whenever he's created his best work: drawing on the richness of past lessons and accomplishments (by both yourself and others) while simultaneously creating something that's new, different, unique... something that makes sense and feels right for this period. We’ll be featuring contributions from some of Bruce’s biggest fans who also happen to be excellent writers and photographers. Some of us used to contribute regularly to Backstreets and other publications; some of us will be newer voices. But what we all share in common is a continued passion for discussion, debate, criticism, and celebration of an artistic endeavor that appears far from over. We plan to ride this train “till the wheels come off,” good people!
I hope you'll visit us often, and that you'll dig what you see whenever you do. Please feel free to let us know how we're doing by e-mailing me at email@example.com And if you really like what you see, please "tip" us whenever and whatever you can via PayPal, Cash App, and/or Venmo. The financial support that we receive from our readers, combined with revenue from appropriate advertising, will help us to continue fairly compensating all of our deserving writers and photographers without having to set up any paywalls, tiered access, etc.
Again, welcome, and thanks for coming by, friends. Here's hoping we'll be seein’ ya again soon.
Shawn Poole, Editor/Publisher